Surgeon General Helps Us Breastfeed

surgeon general breastfeedingHave you heard about Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin and her call to action in support of breastfeeding? Well, now you have and please spread the word because I feel like this particular action from the government isn't getting as much play, as say anything Sarah Palin says, or Rahm Emanuel doesn't do.

Dr. Benjamin voices the concern that so many new mothers discover, that many barriers exist when you're trying to breastfeed your baby. She also adds the important caveat, that no mom should be made to feel guilty for not breastfeeding (I'm digging this SG more all the time!) as she lays out her call to action to increase the odds in favor of women being able to breastfeed their babies.

Most of what Dr. Benjamin calls for is right ON. Here is her outline to action:

  • Communities should expand and improve programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.
  • Health care systems should ensure that maternity care practices provide education and counseling on breastfeeding.
  • Hospitals should become more “baby-friendly,” by taking steps like those recommended by the UNICEF/WHO’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
  • Clinicians should ensure they are trained to properly care for breastfeeding mothers and babies, promote breastfeeding to pregnant patients, and make sure that mothers receive the best advice on how to breastfeed.
  • Employers should work toward establishing paid maternity leave and high-quality lactation support programs, and expand the use of programs that allow nursing mothers to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day. They should also provide women with break time and private space to express breast milk.
  • Families should give mothers the support and encouragement they need to breastfeed, including after her return to work or school.

I've found the first three to be less helpful in this goal, the last two to be wanting -- and crucial. As a new mom I turned to a local La Leche League member for support (communities portion), and she was dismissive, and tried to get me to sign a petition on another political action. I gave birth in a WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital (hospitals portion), but one class on breastfeeding where I was so out of it on post-surgery meds, and one really bad nurse screwed up some early latching on the part of my second child.

However, had I enjoyed the extended maternity leave (employers) that allowed me not to panic about pumping, or had decent health insurance so I didn't have to fret about money for a lactation consultant, or had one of those magical extended families that came over to bring a meal, give solid breastfeeding advice, and take the baby away so I could nap -- hey, that would have been a winning combination.

But that's the beauty about new moms, we're all different and all have different challenges. Finally, an actual government official is addressing something mom-specific that isn't a vague promise about "education."

What do you think about this new call to action by the Surgeon General?


Image via Mel "GW" Stampa/Flickr

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